On Sunday 8th March, PARSA hosted a “Champions of Women” International Women’s Day lunch at University House. A community event open to women and men from the ANU community, the complimentary lunch was a celebration of both women leading in their fields, and those supporting women to achieve their full potential.

The event featured a programme of guest speakers and presentation of three PARSA Inetrnational Women’s Day awards.

PARSA Equity Officer Jessa Rogers hosted the event which was “opened to our entire ANU community, including family, friends and colleagues, because we at PARSA know the true meaning of community support and understand that women’s excellence is often part of a much broader social network”. The lunch was formally opened by Rogers quoting Gloria Steinem: “the story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

Professor Hilary Charlesworth was joined by 2014 ANU Postgraduate Student of the Year, Rizsa Alberaccin, and ANU Alumna and CEO of Sony Foundation Australia, Sophie Ryan, on the panel of guest speakers.

Prior to her role at Sony Foundation, Ryan was a practicing lawyer at Allens Linklaters in both litigation and mergers & acquisitions before moving overseas to work with various United Nations agencies. At the lunch, Ryan spoke of her work at the UN assisting investigations into torture allegations and reporting findings to the Human Rights Commission.

She outlined her experiences as an International Consultant, working in the Criminal Justice Division at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and the work she did after relocating to Sudan as an international consultant at a UN Prison Reform Project, where she implemented a criminal justice project.

In 2013, Ryan was named the winner of the Australian Financial Review Women of Influence Award in the ‘Young Leader’ category.

Guests at the PARSA lunch were inspired by Ryan’s determination as a young woman making a difference in the world. [vox pop/comment from audience].

Later in the program, Professor Charlesworth, Director of the Centre for International Governance and Justice in the Regulatory Institutions Network at the ANU, spoke from her experiences working with various non-governmental human rights organizations on ways to implement international human rights standards.

Alberaccin also shared her experiences growing up in an impoverished jungle village in the Philippines, trekking barefoot 15 kilometers to school, and sleeping homeless while continuing her education alone. Today, Alberaccin is a neuroscientist and molecular biologist, recently completing her studies in the Retinal Development at the John Curtin School of Medical Research. Alberaccin continues her volunteering and leadership commitments as a mentor, also supporting the Shepherds Arms Orphanage in the Philippines.

As part of the event, awards were given on behalf of the PARSA executive team to three individuals who are examples of women’s empowerment and excellence. Danielle Dries, a Kaurna woman from South Australia was awarded the PARSA IWD Student Award.

Dries was recently awarded the Indigenous Rural Health Inspiration Award, is a mentor to students in the Tjabal Centre and other female students finishing year 12 and is heavily involved in Close the Gap through the ANU Rural Health Medical Society, running ANU events for the past two years. She is also the Indigenous Health Officer for the National Rural Health Student Network and involved with the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA). She is studying medicine at the ANU.

The PARSA He for She IWD Award went to Professor Richard Baker. Professor Baker was nominated in his support of women in all aspects of the ANU community. He was recently named the ALLY Champion of ANU, supporting Lesbian, Gay Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, and Ally students of the ANU. Professor Baker has established leadership initiatives that enhance standards of student learning and improve the quality of the student experience. He is a passionate teacher and was the driving force behind the establishment of the University’s Vice-Chancellor’s courses completed by many ANU women.

The IWD Support of Women Award went to Victoria Firth-Smith, a dedicated, supportive and engaging woman working at the ANU to support women from diverse backgrounds. Sitting on the ANU Ally Steering Committee, Firth-Smith is committed to advocating and supporting LGBTQIAA students at the ANU, and is heavily involved in ANU Learning Communities also co-coordinating ANU ambassadors to welcome new ANU students, a support that has assisted many women at the ANU.

The PARSA International Women’s Day lunch was a fantastic success and a wonderful event bringing together the ANU community of staff, students, family and friends as supporters of women’s achievement and equality. The event was a product of PARSA’s work behind the scenes, advocating for women, supporting women’s engagement at the ANU, rallying for student-led initiatives and organizing events to build a community within the postgraduate

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